Marine Sgt. Jamel Herring works out at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. (Jon R. Anderson / Staff)
Marine Corps electrician
Headquarters and Support Battalion, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Hometown: Coram, N.Y.
Light welterweight, 141-pound weight class
Competes July 31-Aug. 11
Sgt. Jamel Herring
Sgt. Jamel Herring almost gave up boxing. He joined the Marine Corps right out of high school in 2003, hoping to go to war. He got his wish.
After a tour in Fallujah, Iraq, he made the all-Marine boxing team for a year but was called back for another deployment to Iraq. That's when a sergeant he knew was killed in a bomb blast.
"He had a 2-week-old son he'd never get to meet," Herring says. With his own son on the way at the time, he says, "that messed me up pretty good."
Back from war, he soon eased back onto the Corps' boxing team and before long was expecting his second child. His daughter was born on Memorial Day in 2009 but died a few months later of sudden infant death syndrome. "It hit me hard. … wanted to quit everything."
Encouraged by family and fellow Marines, he soon found the best way to wrestle down his grief was throwing punches back in the ring. "When I'm in the gym, I'm focused so much on what I'm doing in here. I leave all my problems outside," he says during a workout break.
Now, he says, he fights for his "little angel."
Herring is the first Marine to qualify for the Olympic boxing team in 20 years. His enlistment is up, but he volunteered to extend his contract so he could represent the Corps and his country in London.
July 27, opening ceremonies for the games, is the third anniversary of his daughter's death.